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Denton dad, 38, starts apprenticeship 20+ years after leaving school

Amid National Apprenticeship Week, a dad from Denton has debunked the misconception that apprenticeships are exclusively for school leavers.

Nathan Walters, 38, joined Cadent’s 2023 cohort more than 20 years after leaving school.

He had chased a dream of making music, rapping under the alias Xtra Time, while also working in a housing association call centre.

It was while booking in jobs for gas engineers to fix issues at clients’ properties that he began considering an alternative career path.

After getting permission to condense his weekly hours to four days, he spent the day he gained earning experience in the trade and gaining qualifications. He then saw that Cadent was taking on apprentices and made the decision to apply.

The dad-of-one said: “I wasn’t sure if my age would be an issue – and it just hasn’t been at all. There are apprentices here of different ages and experiences.

“I’m an apprentice FCO [first call operative], which means I’d been first on the scene of what might be a gas escape. You have people’s lives in your hands, and you just have to know what to do.

"It is mind-blowing how much information you need to take in, but it’s a great challenge and exciting. I have never been as content at work. Meeting lots of different people and travelling to different places.”

North West gas distribution network Cadent has reaffirmed its commitment to apprenticeships, revealing it will recruit more than 50 this year. 

The company, which looks after an underground network of more than 21,000 miles of gas pipes in the North West, as well as providing the region’s 24/7 gas emergency service, says apprenticeships are key to its future talent offer.

Cadent has long been an industry champion of apprenticeships – and keen to bust a myth that they are only for school leavers. Last year’s cohort ranged in age from 16 to 40 – and included Nathan Walters, 38, from Denton [see case study].

Paula Steer, North West Network Director, North West, said: “Our job is to keep energy flowing safely and reliably to our 2.7 million customers in the North West.

“To do so we recognise how important it is to attract the skilled engineers and commercial professionals of tomorrow – whether that’s someone taking their first steps into work from school or looking for a career change later in life.

“We are very excited that this year we have opportunities for at least 50 apprentices, including many who will be based here in the North West.

“Once part of our team here at Cadent, there’s no limit on how far you can go – many of my senior leadership team, for example, started as apprentices.

“And there is no better time to join us – you’ll be helping keep people safe and warm in their homes, as well as being part of the North West and UK’s journey to a net zero future, as we introduce greener gases like hydrogen to the energy mix." 

National Apprenticeship Week is an annual celebration of apprenticeships and what they offer, which is taking place across England (5th to 11th February).

Anyone interested in Cadent’s apprenticeships can find more information at www.careers.cadentgas.com. You will join a programme rated very highly by Ofsted, receive a salary starting at £23,728, as well as a van, and many employee benefits.

Positions are available across Cadent’s geographic footprint, which includes the North West, the Midlands, East of England, South Yorkshire and North London.

Cadent operates four of the UK’s eight gas distribution networks.

Its North West network stretches from the Lake District to Crewe and is home to 21,000 miles of distribution pipes (most of them underground) and hundreds of above ground installations. If placed end to end, that amount of pipes would stretch from the North West to Sydney, Australia, and back again.

 Around £800m will be invested in the North West’s gas network over the next five years. This will maintain safe, secure supplies to homes, hospitals, schools, offices and other sites, as well as support the UK journey to net zero carbon emissions.

Backed by Cadent and many partners, the North West region is set to lead the way in a major shift away from using fossil gases and instead use lower-carbon alternatives, like hydrogen, to decarbonise industry and to help heat homes.

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